Sydney forward Will Hayward has tipped his hat to the “senior boys” after signing on with the Swans for an extra year.
The 19-year-old has turned a three-year deal into four and is set to remain with the club until at least the end of 2020.
Hayward signed with the Swans at the 2016 National Draft and had only turned 18 a month earlier.
He was a South Australian boy who had just completed year 12 and was drafted from the North Adelaide Roosters in the South Australian National Football League.
But he said the Swans’ older brigade made for an easy interstate move.
“Luke Parker’s been my official mentor but a lot of the other senior boys have been really good,” Hayward said.
“Buddy’s been great, Kieren Jack’s been really good, Dan Hannebery, Dane Rampe, Josh Kennedy. All the senior players and leadership group have really helped me settle in and obviously a few of the boys I got drafted with and a few mates I’m close to have made it easy as well.
“Each year the younger boys are assigned to a mentor and I was lucky enough to get Luke.
“Coming from Adelaide, it’s a bit smaller than Sydney so the traffic and amount of people took a bit to get used to, but I love the city and have made friends for life. All the boys here are so great and it’s the best place to work.”
The Swans secured Hayward with pick 21 as their second-round selection.
He had recently produced a stellar showing at the 2016 SANFL Under 18 Championships in which he bagged nine goals in the Roosters’ preliminary final and four in the grand final.
The St Peter’s College graduate honed his trade as a Walkerville Cats junior and formed part of North Adelaide’s development squad from the age of 13.
He made his First XVIII debut for St Peter’s College in year 10 and would go on to be a mainstay in the side.
He then caught the Swans’ attention at the Draft through his athleticism and neat skills by hand and foot and said signing with the club made for an unforgettable experience.
“It was unreal,” Hayward said.
“I get shivers just thinking about it sometimes. It was one of the best moments of my football career.”
Hayward made his AFL debut against the Western Bulldogs in Round 2, 2017 and has gone on to play 20 senior games.
He made 17 appearances in his first season as a Swan and said fellow forward Tom Papley played a major hand in his rapid rise.
“With the start we had to the year and the injuries we had I was able to get an early opportunity,” Hayward said.
“I learned a bit off Tom Papley who played a similar role to me and tried to mirror what he did. He used his forward pressure to hold a spot, so I learned a lot off Tom even though he was still really young.”